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Lower Chickahominy

Land & Water Use in the Study Area

Development Patterns & Population

The counties of the Lower Chickahominy have been historically rural but have experienced growth and development pressures in recent decades as urban areas associated with Richmond and Hampton Roads expand.  According to the 2017 American Community Survey Census data, the total population of the three counties was 100,573.  James City County is the most populous county with a total population of 73,028 people.  The population estimate of New Kent County is 20,523.  Charles City County is the least populous and most rural of the three counties with a total estimated population of 7,022.  The map below depicts the distribution of the population in each of the counties according to census data; one dot represents 25 people.

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Continued urbanization is expected in the Lower Chickahominy area, especially in James City and New Kent Counties.  From 2010 to 2017, James City County has experienced an estimated 13.2% population increase and New Kent has experienced an estimated 21.9% population increase according to data from UVA's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.  The Weldon Cooper Center predicts that by 2020 the populations of James City and New Kent will grow by an additional 34% and 37% respectively.

Drinking Water

In much of the Lower Chickahominy, residents and businesses rely on groundwater for drinking water through either individual wells or small public or private systems.  In contrast, many residents and businesses to the east served by the Newport News Waterworks, including portions of James City County, rely on the natural setting of the Lower Chickahominy area as a drinking water source.  Three reservoirs exist in the Lower Chickahominy area:

  • Chickahominy Lake - Walkers Dam stretches across the Chickahominy River between Charles City and New Kent Counties creating Chickahominy Lake.  Abundant cypress trees and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) provide excellent habitats for fish aquatic organisms; they are one of the reasons for the consistently good fishing at this lake.
  • Diascund Reservoir - Located along the New Kent and James City County line, this 1,110-acre reservoir offers recreational opportunities for paddlers and anglers via the public boat ramp at Diascund Reservoir Park in James City County.
  • Little Creek Reservoir -  Located in James City County, this nearly 1,000-acre reservoir can be accessed via Little Creek Reservoir Park.  Visitors can fish, hike, picnic, paddle, and enjoy the playground.
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Conserved Land & Conservation Easements

Conserved Land

Lands maintained in a natural state protect water quality and natural heritage resources by filtering pollution and providing habitat.  Land and water area is included in this category due to ownership associated with limiting development.  There are lands across the Lower Chickahominy area that are conserved from development due to public ownership.  Some conserved land is owned by non-profit conservation organizations.  A few highlights about conserved land in the Lower Chickahominy include:

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Conservation Easements

Almost 13,838 acres of land in the Lower Chickahominy area have been conserved through conservation easements.  Conservation easements legally restrict the use of land for development permanently.  The terms of each easement are unique, but generally, conservation easements maintain land in a natural, undeveloped state passively or in a working manner, such as agriculture or forestry.  Two private non-profit land trusts work with landowners in the Lower Chickahominy area to protect and preserve land: Capital Region Land Conservancy and Historic Virginia Land Conservancy.  Other easement holders of land in the Lower Chickahominy include Virginia Outdoors Foundation, State Agencies including the Department of Forestry and the Department of Historic Resources, James City County through a currently paused purchase of development rights program, James River Association, and Ducks Unlimited.

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What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently protects specific conservation values by limiting the future development of the land.  Land under a conservation easement is still held by the owner and can be used actively according to the terms of the easement, for example, as open space, for recreation, for agriculture, or for forestry.  Each conservation easement is unique.

Wildlife Management Areas

Three Wildlife management areas are located in the three-county Lower Chickahominy area.  Wildlife management areas offer public opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

Chickahominy WMA

Game Farm Marsh WMA

Ware Creek WMA

US Fish & Wildlife Service

Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery near Herring Creek, a tributary of the James River in Charles City County, Va., on Aug. 24, 2018. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Photo by Will Parson / Chesapeake Bay Program

Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery, located in Charles City County, produces American shad, alewife, blueblack herring, hickory shad, and stripped bass.  The fish hatchery recently added the production of freshwater mussels to recover imperiled species such as the James spinymussel among others.

Project Partner Resources

James River Association

The James River Association maintains a public access mapper for the James River and tributaries, including the Chickahominy River.  The user-friendly site includes information about locations including address, website, and amenities.

Explore the James

VA Department of Wildlife Resources

Major Trail Resources

DWR Boating Access Changes

Effective January 1, 2021, any person using a Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR)-owned or managed facility, including boating access sites, must have a valid Virginia hunting, trapping, or fishing permit, a Restore the Wild membership, an access permit, or current certificate of boat registration issued by DWR to use the facility. To learn more see the DWR FAQs page.

Agricultural & Forestal Districts

Forests play a vital role in an ecosystem and its many cycles: nutrient cycling, water, and air purification, carbon storage, and more. Deforestation fragments forests, reducing their ability to perform these services. Additionally, fragmented forests can cause plant and animal population numbers to decrease. In 1977 the Virginia General Assembly passed the Agricultural and Forestal Districts Act. Agricultural Forestal Districts, or AFDs, are preserved areas of land that maintain the ecological importance of that space. Residents can voluntarily designate their own land as an AFD if that land continues to be managed and preserved as mandated in a participating locality. After the land is designated as an AFD, this land cannot be used intensively for several years. Find more information on AFDs from VDOF.

AFDs in the Lower Chickahominy localities are available in New Kent County and James City County.

James City County AFD Map

New Kent County AFD Map

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This project, Task # 93.01 was funded by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program led by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality through Grant FY18 #NA18NOS4190152 of the US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic, and Atmospheric Administration, under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended.  The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US Department of Commerce, NOAA, or any of its sub-agencies.

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